04/08/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
It's been a rough month for ThighMaster and ButtMaster queen Suzanne Somers, 54. First came the suggestion that she needed surgery to sculpt her body purely for cosmetic reasons, which threatened to ruin her credibility, Somers tells PEOPLE in its latest cover story. About to embark on a national promotional tour for her new book, Eat, Cheat and Melt the Fat Away, the veteran TV actress says that she was suddenly faced with publishers who "were starting to freak" about what comics dubbed "Thighgate." Even more troubling was the fact that the method she had chosen to combat her breast cancer -- homeopathic, rather than to have chemotherapy -- was suddenly under public attack after she explained it on a recent Larry King show. Also upsetting to Somers is watching strangers, including doctors, discuss her body on TV. "(It) horrifies me," she says. "Unless you've examined me and my file, it's irresponsible."